Videogame review: Super Mega Baseball combines retro and modern features

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 January, 2015, 10:20pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 January, 2015, 10:20pm

Super Mega Baseball

January is gaming's dry season, a slow period in which players are still getting through the multitude of complex Christmas offerings. But for those desperate for a fix, it's also the time when small-time developers make their creative offerings available for download.

Super Mega Baseball is a throwback to a simpler era, that late 1980s/early '90s period when consoles were clunky, controllers had two buttons and everything was pick-up-and-play. Available as a download for the PS4 and PS3, it's a sport simulator only in that it follows the rules of baseball. Everything else is fair game.

"Arcade-style" is the easiest way to pigeonhole it, but it's so much more than that. Don't let the Nintendo-like cartoon characters fool you: as sports simulators reach greater heights of complexity, Super Mega should be respected for how effortlessly it pares things down to the core mechanics. It's fun, first and foremost, but not the kind of game that you'll play for a couple of hours and then drop when something new comes along.

Replay value is incredibly high, and a lot of that is due to how it eases you into its addictive gaming. That first comes through its controls, a clever balance of old and new. Things are initially kept as simple as in the old days, but complexities are added as you begin to rise in the ranks. For example, the X button swings the bat, but once you self-impose a higher difficulty level, the analogue stick offers a stronger sense of pivot control.

Aside from exhibition games, you're given a season mode, and it's here that Super Mega sets itself apart. While most retro releases are content to recreate a certain vibe, Super Mega offers all the challenges of modern gaming without any of the confusion. Staff can be bought, stats improved and players preferred, but it rarely reaches a level where it's frustrating or fails to be fun. This is how you remember gaming when you were a kid with infinite prospects for wins or losses at your fingertips.

Frustratingly, there's no online mode, which feels like a missed opportunity. Short-burst sport games are rare in the multiplayer world, and this would've made a wonderful addition. Maybe next time. For now, Super Mega Baseball is a fun-sized game, the kind of reality check that'll take the edge off that 500-hour RPG marathon.